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Electrical charge flowing through a memristor changes the resistance state of the device, but actually observing the corresponding material changes has been a challenge. Highly focused x-rays were used to probe the memristor non-destructively and a ~100 nm region with concentrated oxygen vacancies (right, shown in blue) where the memristive switching occurs was discovered. Surrounding this region a newly developed structural phase (red) was also found, which acted like a thermometer telling researchers where and how hot it became.
Caption credit: HP
HP's Stan Williams led the research team that cracked open memristors in 2008. ZDNet's Tom Foremski sat down with him and talked about his team's findings.
"One of the biggest hurdles in using these devices is understanding how they work: the microscopic picture for how they undergo such tremendous and reversible change in resistance. We now have a direct picture for the thermal profile that is highly localised around this channel during electrical operation, and is likely to play a large role in accelerating the physics driving the memristive behavior." - John Paul Strachan of the nanoElectronics Research Group at HP Labs.